When I posted about my resolution to read (almost) only women in 2014, a handful of folks asked me to share what I read. While I do maintain a Goodreads page, it occurs to me that blogging my progress is probably a lot more interesting and flexible for everyone.
So. Here goes.
This month, I finished three books that I began reading prior to the new year: a general book on fitness, Frank Herbert's Dune, and Tiffany M. Gill's Beauty Shop Politics. Of the three, Gill's book is the only one that would meet the criteria of my challenge, and is also the one that I'd recommend most highly.
The history of beauty culture in the American African American community is not something much discussed, and in particular I don't think I really understood the centrality of it in terms of bolstering the Civil Rights movement and empowering women of color. I can't say as a white guy that I have a bone-deep understanding after reading a book, but this adds context I didn't have before.
Other books I finished in January:
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
This is actually a re-read for me, and enjoyable because while I know the story well, I'd forgotten the particular shape of the original text. I'd also forgotten how much it references the works of others in her personal circle, so those parts of me that delight in minutae got a nice workout.
Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I was aware of the upcoming film for Divergent, and I'd started seeing copies of it floating around in public, so I figured I'd give it a go. I ended up binge reading the whole series. It hits me right in the sci-fi dystopia buttons, and the story is one in which there's a lot of opportunities to think about identity, justice, conformity, courage, bias, etc. The diversity level in the text is middling -- lots of PoC, very limited LGBTQ, good gender variety -- and I kind of want to start watching IMDB to see how badly Hollywood sucks out the good stuff and replaces it with crap. Also, like any trilogy there's a necessary shift in the third book, but I'm still trying to decide how I feel about some of those changes, and if there was a better way to tell that part of the story.
Exploring the Northern Tradition by Galina Krasskova
I realized around the late middle of January that I'd enjoy engaging in book club-style behavior with my Pagan studies without going to the trouble of actually starting a book club. Krasskova's book is the one I chose for January. You can find my write-up here.
That puts my counts for 2014:
- 8 books finished
- 5 read in their entirety
- 2:6 ratio of men to women
For February, I'm already working on a good blend of fiction and non-fiction, including another well-loved re-read, and a possible exception to my resolution (under the "required for a project/study" provision). So, uh, stay tuned if you're into that sort of thing.
I enjoy these experiences, even if they're physically miserable. Temporary discomfort is like formal poetry; the constraints make it interesting and force us to approach challenges in novel ways. The level of challenge and contrast between the ordinary and constrained way are part of that. It's like a roller coaster, though I'm not entirely sure if it's more like being one than riding one.
Plus, I lose a lot of my filters -- both for input and output -- when I'm feverish. It's nice to have inexplicable laughing-at-groceries experiences. I feel "fresher" mentally after a couple of days of atypical connections. Sometimes my brain just needs to play without anyone at the helm, I guess.
And now, links.
10 Years Ago, Opportunity Rover Began a 90-Day Mission That Never Ended
Ten years ago, two rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- started exploring Mars. They were supposed to last three months. Spirit gave up the ghost in 2011 after spending a few months doing stationary experiments after getting stuck, but Opportunity is still kicking well past it's expiration date. If your heart is not filled with pride and love for these bravest of toasters, I am not sure you are capable of either.
One map sums up the damage caused by the anti-vaccination movement
Here's the thing: even if one believes that vaccines may contain toxic compounds -- a thing that can no doubt be improved -- using them is demonstrably better overall for populations of humans than not using them. And, given that Wakefield's findings have been pretty much debunked at this point, the anti-vacc argument is increasingly weak sauce in the face of the obvious benefits of maintaining herd immunity.
Satanists Blamed For Theft of Pope's Blood
Because, you know, nobody else might really want a memento of Pope John Paul II because human beings love tangible things and tend to collect and like to touch. Nobody could possibly think that stealing a reliquary for sale on the black market might make them a significant amount of money. There's no possible way that anybody, ever, might think to steal something rare and valuable and religiously significant. Except, you know, Satanists. Scary, scary Satanists.
Science Fiction All Genres!
There is a reason this Kickstarter project is nailing its stretch goals, and that reason is that it is awesome. Sweet gods, I need to win the lottery.
The Myth of the Fag Hag and Dirty Secrets of the Gay Male Subculture
One of the many reasons monosexual cisfolk can be difficult to deal with: misogyny in the gay male community. Which, incidentally, tends to drive a lot of transphobia as well.
Green burials reflect a shift to care for the body and soul
I love that green burial is starting to get a toehold in the monotheisms in a visible way. It's actually in my top three preferences in terms of future disposition of my remains -- if I can find a place that will let me include some grave goods, it could beat out alkaline hydrolysis as my #1 and cremation as my #2 -- though I still have a lingering discomfort with the concept of future anthropologists misgendering me. So.
If You Want To Fit In At This Public School Just Become Christian
This kind of thing, incidentally, is why secular public schools are important. By that I don't mean that individuals can't express their faith and that religious topics can't be taught or discussed in history, literature, or cultural studies. They should. What I mean is that students must be allowed to participate and feel safe regardless of their faith, and that educators have a responsibility in their role not to infringe on student's rights to do that. If the teachers in my rural hometown during the 1990s were able to do that for the most part, this school should be able to figure it out. Then again, looking at this map, Louisiana is also in a state that allows public schools to teach creationism. So.
- CHVRCHES covered "Bela Lugosi's Dead"
And I don't hate it. Mostly because I don't expect it to be Bauhaus, and because it does something new with the original instead of trying to imitate it. Your mileage may vary.
- What Kind of Meat is Human Meat?
The answer may surprise you. And possibly make you uncomfortable about veal if you weren't already.
- Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars
The Internet can be a fantastic tool for minorities and others dealing with inequity. On the other hand, we also seem to have a nasty habit of eating our own. This is going to take some work.
Roommate J and I are both home sick today. To give you an idea of how this is going, I offer an extract.
Me: *in kitchen, bursts out laughing*
Me: "Nothing. I'm just...laughing. At groceries."
So. That's working out quite well for me these days.
As first days of the year go, I'd say the beginning of 2014 has gone pretty well. It started out with a really excellent shower, some fun entertaining a guest, and then the rest of it was mostly Thai food and brilliant conversation with a friend I don't see nearly often enough.
We were at Chim's for over six hours. So much tea. So much coconut-based curry. So much thinky. Mmm.
As for resolutions, I figured out mine for 2014 in the car on the morning of the 30th, almost entirely by accident. See, I've been tracking my reading for the last couple of years, and while I do seem to read a few women, female authors still aren't making up at least 50% of my reading diet.
Thus, my plan: read only women authors in 2014, with the following exceptions:
- I can finish any books I am currently reading, regardless of the author's gender,
- I can continue reading any series I am already reading (currently A Song of Ice and Fire, Magic Ex Libris, and Dune)
- I can read books by men if they are required for a course, of if I'm doing specific research and they're the best source
I'm actually pretty stoked about this. I've got Veronica Roth's Divergent waiting for me on my desk, Seanan McGuire's second InCryptid novel on deck, as well as a few others already waiting.
It's going to be a good reading year. Though, uh, considering I'm still awake at 1:30 in the morning, possibly not so great in terms of sleep. Er.
Today is Labor Day, which I am apparently celebrating by working on the things I do outside of the DayjobTM, like writing and editing things.
Thank you, early labor movement, for the five day work week and eight-hour day that those of us lucky enough to be in certain economic strata enjoy. Also, for the desperately-needed three-day weekend.
Yesterday was some light housekeeping, followed by a phone meeting/social call with my co-editor on Secret Project, followed by writing and sending All The Queries. Well, not all the queries, since Illustrious Co-Editor is also working on some of them, but between that and preparing some other materials, I had a pleasantly active afternoon/evening.
Plus, it gave me something to do while I watched the (somewhat rickety and not-entirely-reliable) livestream of this year's Hugo Awards ceremony. Nerd that I am, the Hugo Awards are sort of like my VMAs in that I tend to get really excited about the whole thing. It was, I think, an excellent ceremony this year, and many things I love (Saga, Writing Excuses, SF Squeecast, Avengers) got to leave with pretty trophies.
Also, I have spent the entire day being sad that there is not another person in this house who will think the "semiprozine" joke is nearly as funny as I do. Life is hard.
But there was another moment during the ceremony that got my attention. There I was, agonizing over a particular bit of wording when I looked up and was like, "Holy shit, Elizabeth Bear could break me in half."
Well, my limbs, at least. My trunk is pretty chunky.
Chunky enough that today I dug around for food guidelines in terms of servings of various things, hit the supermarket to buy healthy equivalents of those serving guidelines, and then set up a shiny new SparkPeople account to make sure my macronutrient intake is in balance. Which is maybe not strictly the most proportional response to seeing another author on an event livefeed, but it's really more the thing that kicked the "not loving the way I live" ball down the hill.
I mean, come on. I changed practically everything else about my life this summer. A little bit of brown rice probably isn't going to kill me, right?
(Something, something, arsenic.)
But yeah. I have become Captain Produce or something. We'll see where this goes.
And now, to go back to Writing All the Things.
Actually, no. Honestly, the remainder of the summer seems to have done more or less exactly what I anticipated. I went from moving my mother to downsizing my own clutter and moving house, then found myself in a place where my downtime needed to be downtime while I let the toxicity of the last seven years bleed and seep and ooze out of me.
Yeah, I anticipated being a little less quiet, but there you go.
So here's what I did on my summer vacation. I arranged and rearranged my room. I binge-watched all eight seasons of Supernatural. I spent time bonding with my dogs. I started the work of consolidating all of my old data from various previous computers and then trying to delete the duplicate copies of everything (which is a chore just with my music collection alone).
Somewhere along the line I started working again. A friend lured me onto a project a couple of months ago that I can't wait to be able to talk about. I hammered out several really fun pages on something else yesterday. I'm reading more again. Things are unknotting. This is good, because when the full scale of what I did by walking away from a house hits, I'll probably want to be pretty bendy.
Overall, though, I feel pretty good.